Rabbi Rubinstein, who had worked with the Corporation for 30 years, posted his letter of resignation on Facebook yesterday, in which he wrote that “The current crisis over antisemitism at the Corporation and its attempts to turn the victims of the recent antisemitic attack on Jewish children in London and claim that the victims were actually the perpetrators, was and is inexcusable.” He added: “The obfuscation, denial that followed, was and is utterly damning.”
Rabbi Rubinstein described his resignation as “a very sad moment”, before ending the post by writing: “I simply don’t see how I or in fact any Jew who has any pride in that name can be associated with the Corporation anymore.”
In its coverage of the Oxford Street incident, the BBC reported that the explicit expressions of antisemitism evident in footage of the incident were merely “allegations”, and simultaneously claimed — alone among all media outlets — that “some racial slurs about Muslims can also be heard from inside the bus,” an assertion made with no evidence to support it and which was even contradicted in the article by a witness from the bus who said that she heard no such slurs. On its BBC London Evening News, the BBC even suggested that “it’s not clear what role [the supposed slurs] may have had in the incident.” After public fury, the BBC amended the article to refer to an “anti-Muslim slur” in the singular, but failed to show any evidence why a supposed slur that nobody could hear with certainty was described as “clearly heard” and reported as fact — and even implied to have been a cause of the antisemitic harassment — while the harassment itself remained mere “allegation”.
Lord Grade, a former Chairman of the BBC, described the BBC’s reportage as “shoddy journalism” and called for answers in a video supporting the protest, while Dame Maureen Lipman encouraged people to attend “Because you care, and you will be demonstrating against my often-times employer asking for parity with other victims of racism, prejudice and abuse.” Lord Grade discussed the matter further on our podcast, Podcast Against Antisemitism.
Last month, in response to the coverage of the incident, hundreds of protestors attended Campaign Against Antisemitism’s “BBC News: Stop Blaming Jews!” rally outside Broadcasting House in London, which was endorsed by Lord Grade and Dame Maureen Lipman.
The rally came after the BBC failed to respond substantively to contact from Campaign Against Antisemitism and other Jewish organisations about its recent coverage, which is not out of the ordinary for the public broadcaster. Polling that we conducted last year for our Antisemitism Barometer revealed that two thirds of British Jews are deeply concerned by the BBC’s coverage of matters of Jewish concern, and 55% by its handling of antisemitism complaints. These figures reflect years of eroding confidence in the BBC on the part of the Jewish community.
We have submitted a complaint to the BBC and have also written to the Chairman and Director-General of the BBC to voice our concerns. In our letter, we called on the BBC to reveal their evidence that an anti-Muslim slur can be heard on the bus and explain why the claim that an anti-Muslim slur can be heard is asserted as fact (despite nobody else being able to discern such a slur) while the evident antisemitism is caveated as mere allegation.
We also reiterated our call for the BBC to adopt the International Definition of Antisemitism and once again offered to provide the Corporation with training in how to identify and deal with antisemitism, which will go some way to restoring what little remains of the confidence of the Jewish community in our nation’s public service broadcaster.
A spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “Rabbi Rubinstein’s courageous and principled decision to resign as a broadcaster at the BBC is just the latest sign of the collapse in the Jewish community’s confidence in the Corporation. No self-respecting Jewish person wants to be publicly associated with the BBC after it yet again demonstrated its bias against Jews in its recent reportage of an antisemitic incident on Oxford Street in Central London.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism monitors traditional media and regularly holds outlets to account. If members of the public are concerned about reportage in the media, they should contact us at [email protected].